Happy 169th birthday, Florida!

March 3, 2014

The act for the admission of Iowa and Florida into the union. (The World Digital Library)

On this day 169 years ago, Florida became the nation’s 27th state.

With a population of approximately 60,000 people, Florida was granted statehood on March 3, 1845, alongside Iowa, though it wouldn’t become a state for more than year. The pair were admitted together due to the politics of slavery, as Iowa Public Radio notes in a post about the path to statehood:

During these years the issue of slavery was deeply dividing the United States. Slavery was forbidden in the Iowa territory. But Iowans could not escape the national debate.

A plan in the United States Senate had been worked out. There would be an equal number of senators from the free states in the North and the slave states in the South. Every time a new slave state was added, a new free state had to be admitted.

That meant that if Iowa entered the Union, it needed to find a match from the South. Florida was available, but if Iowa waited there might not be another slave state available for some time. When Florida became a state in 1845, the pressure was on Iowa.

Iowa became a state the next year, but less than two decades later, Florida would vote to secede from the union with more than a full percent of its population volunteering to fight with the Confederacy. The was ultimately forced to rejoin by the victorious Union army.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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